Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reasonable Faith and Scaling the Secular City v.s Arguing for Atheism Series Intro

I plan to do a rather short series of posts on the arguments made in Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City and Arguing for Atheism by Robin Le Poidevin for God's existence. All of these are pretty high quality books, I would recommend them to anyone interested in the philosophy of religion. (I would probably rate Reasonable Faith a little bit higher then Scaling as far as apologetics go just because it is more recent, makes a better cumulative argument, and is less dry.) I will focus on the arguments for God's existence put forward in all these books and not the case made for the Resurrection of Jesus and the Historical Reliability of the Gospels because I have not yet read those sections in Reasonable Faith or Scaling and because Arguing for Atheism has nothing of the sort to compare. I will summarize the main arguments of the books and see which position, theism or atheism, is more tenable as they are argued.

Craig’s Reasonable Faith is basically a textbook on modern Christian apologetics and probably one of the best ones out there for that sort of thing. Although he does believe that he knows that “Christianity is true primarily by the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit” (pg 58) he does strive to strongly show that this is true. In order to do this he uses several traditional arguments for God’s existence:
-The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
-The Kalam Cosmologogical Argument (He spends the most time defending this one since he is the one who essentially single-handily revived it)
-The Fine-Tuning Argument
-The Moral Argument
            -The Ontological Argument (Plantiga’s version)
Although it is not entirely clear that all these arguments really show the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient personal creator we may be able to infer that they do. At I assume that these arguments, if they work would prove the existence of such a being and not argue that they do not. (This is one thing that Walter Sinnot Armstrong tries to show in his debate with Craig in their book God?)
Moreland’s book makes a similar case. He utilizes these following arguments for God’s existence:
-The Kalam Cosmological Argument (he is heavily indebted to Craig for this section)
                        -Nearly every Design Argument conceivable in a very short space
-An argument based on meaning; perhaps we could call it a Pascalesque -Wager on the meaning of life
-Argument from the Mind (a combination of the argument from reason and the argument from consciousness)
In contrast Le Poidevin’s book is different because although it argues for atheism it is really an introduction to the philosophy of religion (particularity focusing on metaphysics). Because of this he doesn’t go in to the trouble of really formulating a cumulative case for atheism. However if one were to try summarizing his case it may be the following: that because none of the arguments for God’s existence are successful, one should be an atheist. The arguments for God’s existence which he endeavors to refute are as follows:
Meaning, death, and purpose are discussed as well. It is notable that Le Poidevin defines an atheist as “one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe” (pg i). As you can see merely denying the above arguments would lead you to be an agnostic not an atheist, so perhaps we could expand his case to: not only are the arguments for God’s existence failures but also God is not a good explanation. (Additionally Le Poidevin incorporates the argument from evil, but since neither Craig nor Moreland flirt with any atheistic arguments it would not be fair to include that in my comparison).

  1. (a) The universe cannot have come into existence from nothing: it must have had an ultimate cause  namely God.
  1. (b) The existence of God explains what would otherwise be entirely mysterious,      
namely, why the laws of nature are such as to have permitted the emergence of intelligent life.
  1. (c)Only by supposing the existence of a God can we make sense of the existence of objective moral values… (pg xxi)
I have already made a post on the Kalam Cosmological Argument which included many of Le Poidevin’s critiques so I will probably not deal with it again. Here is some of the posts I have made in this series as well as some that I have yet to complete:
                        Leibnizian Cosmological Argument                      
                        Design Arguments: Analogy, Probability, and Fine-Tuning
                       The Moral Argument
                       The Ontological Argument
                       AA on God as an explanation

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